MHS teachers experience eclipse up-close

Printer-friendly version

Did you see the eclipse? Did you travel to see totality? MHS astronomy teacher Jeff Kind and chemistry teacher Joe Spolar decided to take a road trip to see the eclipse up close on Aug. 21.

"Descriptions of the human experience of totality are not just scientific, but spiritual and beyond,'' Spolar said. "We knew we would go to this eclipse. It was just a question of when to leave, where to go, and where the weather was most likely to allow the celestial show.''

A few weeks before the eclipse, maps were gathered, the eclipse path was transferred to them, and Kind and Spolar finally chose a destination for this once in a lifetime experience: Table Rock, Neb. with a population of 260. It was on the center line of totality, away from major cities, a reasonable distance away (500 miles) and had a favorable history of weather.

On Aug. 20 they drove to Table Rock. Spolar said the trip was fast and efficient and the two teachers avoided the travel woes predicted for months in other locations. The forecast for 1:04 p.m. on Monday was not great but not terrible, he said. On Monday morning, it was most cloudy in Table Rock so Kind and Spolar researched the line of totality 300 miles to the northwest and 300 miles to the southeast. It appeared the best bet was Columbia, Mo., which was more than 4 hours away.

They drove through rain. They rejected Boonville to the north of Interstate 70 and headed away from the center line, which would maximize the 2 minutes and 30 seconds of darkness, because bluer skies teased to the south. They ended up in Bunceton in a small park on the edge of town of 350 people.

The partial eclipse was quite a show, Spolar said. The brightness obscured anything to the naked eye but solar filters revealed the mechanics of the solar system as the disc of the moon, a coincidental 400 times smaller than the sun but 400 times closer, almost perfectly covered the sun. Thin clouds can’t diminish a partial eclipse, but totality, visible to the naked eye because it is less than a million times as bright, needs clear skies.

Spolar said clouds might block Baily’s beads, the diamond ring, and almost surely the sun’s corona, which is only visible during a total eclipse. It is a million times less bright than the surface of the sun even though it burns at 1,000 times hotter, he said.

Two minutes before totality, the sun disappeared behind the moon but also behind a. Kind and Spolar experienced totality -- the surreal darkness, 360 degrees of twilight, and even Venus at mid-day in a clear part of the sky.

"The one place we needed clear skies?'' Spolar said. "That darn cumulus cloud. A few minutes after totality reveals the disc of the moon now receding from the face of the sun. Five minutes later, clear blue skies. It felt like a balloon popped in our core.

"As we drive the 10 hours home, more twists of the knife- friends outside of St Louis had a perfect view. More cruelly, Table Rock had a relatively clear view that included a rainbow created by a light haze.''

Spolar said he and Kind are already looking forward to the next total eclipse in the United States, which is set for 2024.

Export to Sites: 
Middleton High School